The modern Walsall Metropolitan Borough is a substantial area housing around a quarter of a million people. But it was not always so extensive, or so populous!
In 1831, the old Parish of Walsall, at that time divided into the townships of the ‘Borough’ and the ‘Foreign’ for the purpose of collecting the Poor Rate, included just 15,066 people.
But what were the Borough and Foreign? Simply put, the Borough was the old town itself, the rough equivalent in size of modern Walsall’s town centre. Today, it would not take you long to cross it on foot – if you got off the bus outside The Prince pub in Stafford Street and walked south to the Wheatsheaf pub in Birmingham Road, you will have travelled across the town of Walsall: the old Borough.
The Foreign was every place within the old Parish of Walsall but outside the Borough. In those days, when Bloxwich had a chapel of ease but no parish of its own, the Foreign primarily included such places as Bloxwich (the effective centre of the Foreign), Little Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Leamore, Birchills, Shelfield and (albeit semi-detached) Walsall Wood. It also included such smaller locations as Pleck, Caldmore, Chuckery and Palfrey.
Rushall, Pelsall, Brownhills, Aldridge, Streetly, Bentley, Darlaston and Willenhall, which were not part of the old Borough and Foreign, did not come under the administration of Walsall until the mid 1960s-70s, which changes caused some controversy within those towns and villages. The present Metropolitan Borough itself (preceded by the County Borough) came into being on 1 April, 1974.
The rivalries between these later additions and Walsall itself were foreshadowed by the long-standing feuding between Bloxwich and Walsall, which despite their distinctness and one-time geographical separation before the surrounding areas were filled in with houses, shops and industrial development, are thought to have been historically associated for almost 1000 years.
In practice, the separate identity of the Foreign or ‘forren’ goes back at least as far as the 13th century, when the Ruffus Charter of c1225 mentions the ‘forin woods’, and a lease of 1485 refers to ‘the Manor of the Forren of Walsall’.
Walsall’s first town centre cinema for two decades continues to rise from the ground with the scheme just months away from completion.
The 8 screen complex will be run by The Light Cinema and is expected to be finished next spring.
Five bars and restaurants are included in the first phase of the development, which include Hungry Horse, Bella Italia, Pizza Express and Chiquitos. Property developer Kier is in advance negotiations with the fifth tenant for the final unit in phase one.
Kier is expected to complete its handover to the tenants next month, whereupon the cinema operator will kit out the building with the latest hi-tech Extreme screen, which delivers a more intense experience through super-high quality audio and visual.
Walsall’s last town centre cinema (The Cannon, originally the ABC/Savoy) closed in 1993. The 1930s art deco ‘super cinema’ was replaced by the Woolworths building at the top end of Park Street, now occupied by Poundland and Pure Gym near the New Art Gallery.
Walsall Council’s deputy leader, councillor Adrian Andrew was given a tour of the facility earlier today, and said that this latest scheme was another key piece in the jigsaw of regenerating the town.
“I’m delighted to see with my own eyes that Walsall’s new cinema is on track to open early next year,” he said.
“People are not going to be disappointed with this venue, which will nicely complement the existing leisure facilities in the Waterfront area.
“The £65m Waterfront development has been a resounding success so far, regenerating 17 acres in the town and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.
“There aren’t many towns in the UK that can boast the same degree of regeneration as Walsall.
“Kier and its contractor G F Tomlinson, together with The Light are committed to completing the project on time in early 2016.”
Phil Dove of The Light Cinema added: “This is a wonderful location for Light Cinemas and we are looking forward to working with everyone in Walsall. It’s incredible to see what’s already happened and the exciting plans for further regeneration.
“We’re confident that the Walsall public will very much appreciate this bespoke cinematic experience. The Light offers a unique social vibe and meets the individual and collective needs of the community.”
Kier has agreed terms with three additional operators for the second phase and has one unit remaining of up to 5,000sq ft, which could be split for the right operator. Interested parties should contact Nick Ferris of Jones Lang LaSalle in Leeds or Stuart Burdon-Bailey of Jones Lang LaSalle in Manchester.
Walsall Police’s Chief Inspector Martin Hurcomb has been busy working on the policing plans for next week’s English Defence League protest in the town.
And police say preparations are well in hand for the “peaceful” demonstration on Saturday 15th August.
Trained police negotiators have been in regular contact with both the EDL and counter protesters to identify their intentions and stress the importance that members protest peacefully.
Organisers have told police they are planning a peaceful protest in Walsall (police have no powers to ban groups from exercising their democratic right to protest) but police say they will take decisive action against anyone who creates disorder or behaves aggressively.
From live music and performances to literary events and exhibitions from local artists to dare devil acrobatics, there’s something for everyone at this year’s inaugural Walsall Town Festival – which begins today, with a host of events in shops, Gallery Square and other local venues!
The 9 day event takes place from Saturday 18th to Sunday 26th July, with daytime and evening activities planned throughout Walsall town centre to keep everyone entertained.
This year’s programme – developed by the Creative Walsall network, in partnership with the council’s town centre management and Creative Development teams and Creative Black Country – will feature more than 60 activities including music from local acts, boat trips from Birchills to the Wharf at Gallery Square, craft and art workshops, with many of the activities free.
There is also a full programme of fringe activities being hosted by many of the towns pubs and retailers – including a Steampunk literary event at Southcart Books in Lower Hall Lane today! The borough’s only independent bookshop is also hosting another event showcasing local authors next Saturday 25th July – The Fantastic Finale Free4All – which will be mc’d by the Bloxwich Telegraph’s editor, Stuart Williams.
Just today, there’s the following line-up of events, but there are loads more throughout the festival week!
Saturday 18th July
11 – 5pm Walsall on Stage in Gallery Square
6 solid hours of quality live music including Rock, Reggae, Indie, Tabla bass and surprise guests
10am – 4pm Classic vehicles from Aston Manor Road Transport Museum based In Aldridge
10am -4pm Theatre Caravan – marvel at the smallest theatre and amazing characters
Arts Workshops in Central Library, Leather Museum and Helen’s Haberdashery
10.30 – 4.30pm Southcart’s Splendiferous Steampunk Saturday, Southcart Books, Lower Hall Lane (plus a variety of varied readings next Saturday)
Artists and exhibitions in shop windows in Victorian Arcade and Old Square Shopping Centre
World class Gallery and Leather Museum Exhibitions
From 5pm More live music in The Wharf Bar
8pm Live Poetry and Song at Rift with Walsall Poetry Society and Launch of Ian Henery’s Book Black Country Blues.
All Walkable from Bus and Train Stations and car parks
Be amazed with the finest wheelbarrow operators in the land, with representatives from Goscote Greenacres Community Garden wow the crowds with their performance on 23 July.
Throughout the week, exhibitions will be held at New Art Gallery Walsall and The Leather Museum with workshops and mini festivals held in the Old Square, Saddlers and Park Place Shopping Centres.
And the final weekend will culminate with performances from the outstanding No Fit State Circus. The Cardiff-based act – now in its 35th year, combines live music, dance, stage design, text and film with traditional circus skills.
Councillor Adrian Andrew, deputy leader at Walsall Council, said: “This year’s event promises a fantastic programme of live entertainment featuring the very best of local and national artists.
“It’s been arranged to help locals to take pride in our town and recognise the talented people who live and work here.
“We’ve really gone out on a limb to pull together some quality acts, with more than 60 activities taking place in just over a week, and I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved, particularly our Town Centre Management team and the Creative Development team.
“There’s been a great response from local groups and by the end of the 9 day event, we estimate more than 2,000 hours will have been volunteered by local people.
“We’re particularly looking forward to welcoming No Fit State Circus to Walsall, a company which has performed in more than 15 countries and to audiences of more than 250,000.
“With activities taking place in the evening as well as in the daytime, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and we hope this event will help boost trade in the town.”
Small businesses and sole traders who work in the construction and supply industries are being given the chance to pitch their products and services to developers who are working on three exciting projects in Walsall.
Walsall businesses are being urged to attend Walsall’s third Meet the Buyer event at Walsall College’s Wisemore campus on Thursday 30 April to find out about contracts on offer at the two new leisure centres in Bloxwich and Oak Park and the new cinema and retail development at Walsall Waterfront.
More than 60 local businesses attended the last Meet the Buyer event in November, which centred around the £26m Darlaston highways improvement scheme, the new £11m Business and Sports Hub at the college and the £3.2m HQ for Jhoots Pharmacy.
Construction firm ISG is working with Walsall Council to deliver both leisure centres, which will include a 25 metre eight lane swimming pool, teaching/learner pool, six court sports hall, 100 station fitness suite, dance studio, two squash courts, cafe, artificial turf pitch and additional car parking spaces for each centre.
Both sites are expected to be completed by Summer next year.
Kier Property – through their appointed contractor G F Tomlinson Group – is behind the £12m, eight screen The Light Cinema development, which will provide around 5,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including four restaurants, Chiquito, Pizza Express, Bella Italia and Hungry Horse.
Both developers are keen to work with local suppliers and tradespeople to ensure Walsall businesses benefit from each project.
ISG Regional director Jon James, said: “This event is an open invitation to all those high-quality construction trade specialists looking to learn more about the opportunities associated with this key leisure scheme.
“The region has a wealth of skills and expertise that we are looking to deploy on the construction of the Oak Park and Bloxwich leisure centres, and we are determined that the scheme will create a skills legacy that will not only benefit the local economy, but also the wider construction industry.”
Andy Sewards, managing director at G F Tomlinson Group added: “We’re delighted to be involved in such an important regeneration project on Walsall’s Waterfront which is helping to create new job opportunities and grow the local economy. We’re committed to working closely with all stakeholder partners and local people to ensure this new leisure complex development is the best it can be to meet the needs of the local community.”
The event is open to businesses who are already involved in commercial contracts and to those who are interested in moving into this field.
Simon Neilson, Walsall Council’s executive director for economy and environment, said: “It is one of our top priorities to ensure that local businesses and our residents who are self-employed are given the opportunity to work with these key developers to boost the economy in Walsall by creating new and safeguarding existing jobs.
“We want to ensure that every investment we and our partners make into Walsall is an investment in our economic future.”
Local firms will have access to one-to-one business advice and the opportunity to meet with the developers to help businesses grow and access the supply chain.
Planning chiefs have given the green light for a new, permanent location for Walsall’s historic market at The Bridge in the town centre.
The decision at last night’s planning committee cements the future of the 800-year old market, along with a number of public realm improvements in the town.
The Market will comprise of 70 pitches housed in a back-to-back layout so traders face pedestrian routes and two dedicated catering vehicle spaces focused around The Bridge.
Stalls can also be demountable, so when the market is not operating it can act as a public open space.
Changes to the market layout will be carried out in two main phases to minimise disruption to traders during the ongoing regeneration activity in the town centre.
Phase one, which gets underway in late March, will see the relocation of 11 stalls and a catering vehicle to The Bridge, two extra stalls on Bradford Street and up to 6 stalls in Market Square. Six trees will be removed from the north east side of The Bridge but these will be reinstated in phase two.
As part of the second phase, the fountain at The Bridge will be relocated within the Town Centre as a piece of public art, the podium on which it sits will be removed and Sister Dora statue repositioned into a more prominent location. The iconic Hippo sculpture has already been moved to a temporary location outside Walsall Central Library to allow work to progress and will return to The Bridge as part of the permanent market layout.
Walsall’s regeneration chief, Councillor Mohammad Nazir, said that the decision was a ‘benchmark for the town’ and was the culmination of extensive consultation:
“I am delighted to confirm that we now have planning permission for the Market’s permanent location,” he said.
“The new Market and public realm improvements will definitely enhance the town and compliments the ongoing regeneration projects in the town centre.
“We have had to stick to a specific timeline as there are a number of projects taking place in the town and we want to minimise disruption to traders and retailers alike. Within a few months, Primark and the Co-op food store will be trading and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new cinema in the town, so it’s a really exciting period for Walsall.”
Work will now commence on appointing contractors for the scheme.
A brand-new television station is all set to launch in Walsall this Saturday evening – and it plans to cover Birmingham, the Black Country and Solihull from its studios in the heart of the town!
Big Centre TV will broadcast digitally to an estimated 2.3 million viewers across the region, from the Goldmine Centre in Lower Hall Lane, where it has joined forces with Walsall Studio School to get a full programme of local and regional news, light entertainment, comedy, cultural and music shows, children’s programming and nostalgic TV including re-runs of the much-loved West Midlands-based ATV soap ‘Crossroads’, all ‘on the air’ via Freeview Channel 8.
Ofcom’s broadcast licensing committee awarded the TV licence to Kaleidoscope TV, which is the holding company for Big Centre TV, following the failure of City TV in 2014.
The new station is the brainchild of enthusiastic co-owners veteran ATV and Central newscaster Mike Prince and ex-teacher Chris Perry, who is the channel director at Big Centre TV. Their enthusiasm is shared equally by Peter Stack, creative director and head of Sixth Form at Walsall Studio School, Dan Parkes, the school’s principal, and Kevin Davis, CEO of the Vine Trust Group, which runs the Goldmine Centre.
A wealth of experience as well as the latest technical expertise is behind this new breed of local broadcaster. Well-known ex-Central TV sports broadcaster Bob Hall is head of news and sport while Shropshire journalist Jennifer Meierhans and Birmingham broadcaster Marverine Cole are senior news producers. Technical, production and studio staff and a team of roving video news journalists provide the skills needed to get the show crackling across the digital airwaves to homes across the region.
Legendary radio DJ and broadcaster David ‘Diddie’ Hamilton also has a regular chat show with some fascinating guests already ‘in the can’ and more to come. Audiences are invited to selected shows, with notifications on the station’s Facebook page and presumably via their website, which is also launching on Saturday.
The station is sharing a media studio, presentation suite and four hundred seat auditorium – which also doubles up as a studio – with the school, and as a result students will benefit from valuable professional experience gained through the partnership.
As well as lighting and sound equipment, the station has the use of broadcast-quality cameras and a ‘TriCaster’ green screen production system, allowing the use of virtual backgrounds for factual programming and news.
A preview is already being shown on Freeview 8. Viewers will probably need to re-tune their Freeview boxes or TVs to pick up the channel initially. It is not currently on Sky or Virgin.
Regular scheduled programmes will be broadcast by Big Centre TV seven days a week from 6pm on Saturday 28 February 2015, and the station also plans to make programmes viewable online. Check out their website and Freeview’s programme guide for scheduling.
Walsall’s popular hippo sculpture is moving to a new temporary location this weekend whilst redevelopment work continues in the area he currently calls home. The concrete hippo, affectionately known as Hoppy, will move from The Bridge to outside Walsall Central Library in Lichfield Street in the early hours of Sunday morning. The area around The Bridge is currently the focus of major regeneration work with the construction of a new Primark and Mid-Counties Co-operative food store. As outlined late last year a planning application has also been submitted to create a new permanent location at The Bridge for the town’s historic market.This application is due to be considered by the planning committee in the coming weeks. It is unclear how long Hoppy the Hippo will be at his temporary home but the long term plan is to allow him to relocate back to The Bridge area once all the work in this area of the town centre is completed.
Hoppy received ‘his’ name by popular acclaim back in the early 1970s, when he was first sited outside Lloyd’s Bank on The Bridge and was regularly jumped over by both youngsters and a mayor of Walsall! Hoppy is, however, technically female, as the children’s play sculpture was inspired by the ancient Egyptian goddess Taweret, goddess of children and the northern sky, which is why it was deliberately placed facing north on the ‘banks’ of the Walsall Brook (representing the River Nile) which flows under The Bridge.
The third in the remarkable series of new Walsall Mummer’s Plays written by local playwright David Calcutt, organised by Walsall Civic Society working with local groups, talented volunteers and Walsall Council and funded by a Heritage Lottery grant – ‘The Lovers and the Pirates’ – is all set for curtain up on its first open air performances this Saturday 16 February at noon, 1.30pm and 3pm in Walsall Marketplace, High Street, Walsall, just a short way down from the ASDA store – with FREE admission!
The successful series – commissioned specially as part of the historic Walsall Bayard’s Colts Project – has brought a genuine revival of English street theatre to the town – not to mention much mirth, madness, music, mummery and mayhem!
And good weather or no, you’ll get a chance to see the play this weekend, for a special indoor performance is also taking place within the bounds of Bloxwich, at our very own Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre in Elmore Row, this Sunday 17 February at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets for the Bloxwich performance cost just £5 – to book, call 01922 655900.
The Bath Street Band and 100 Voices Choir along with Walsall Council are delighted to invite everyone to come along and take part in what promises to be the biggest sing-song of the year – this Saturday 15 December at the lakeside Bandstand in Walsall Arboretum!
Choirmaster Darryll Prew of the 100 Voices Choir said:
“We will be signing all the traditional favoutrites, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Good KIng Wenceslas, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and many more.
“There will be a glass of mulled wine or soft drink and a mince pie for each singer.It goes without saying, this event is outside and it is December, so wrap up warm!
Saturday’s concert takes place 1.30pm – 2.30pm and is FREE!
100 Voices began as a community event put together to perform at the Caldmore Village Festival and we have performed at each of the three festivals with our numbers being between 16 and 84 singing on the stage.
Darryll went on:
“100 Voices is not a regular choir as such, and it has never yet reached 100 Voices! We are more of a ‘scratch’ choir open to absolutely anyone irrespective of age, experience or even ability!
For that reason, I have no idea how many there will be of us singing Carols, but that is part of the fun! We just enjoy meeting together to sing and have no visions of grandeur.”
Bath Street Band are made up mainly of the members of the music team from Bath Street Church in Caldmore plus a couple of friends. They have performed as the Bath Street Band for around 3 years now, playing in various pubs, Caldmore Village Festival and Mela, different churches and recently they competed in the ‘Live Band of The Year’ contest at The Robin 2 music venue in Bilston. Playing a wide variety of music, their style has been defined as ‘Christian folk/rock’.
For further information contact Darryll Prew on 07792 473916.
Covering Bloxwich, Little Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Leamore and Birchills